Tight Point Battles Continue as Grand-Am Rolex Series Heads For Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Debut DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 31, 2007) -- Scott Pruett (Daytona Prototype) and Dirk Werner (GT) know consistency alone won't keep them atop ...
Tight Point Battles Continue as Grand-Am Rolex Series Heads For Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Debut
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 31, 2007) -- Scott Pruett (Daytona Prototype) and Dirk Werner (GT) know consistency alone won't keep them atop their respective Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve championship point standings heading into Friday's Montreal 400k, a 92-lap (400 kilometers), two-and-a-half hour time limit race (SPEED, Same Day at 8 p.m. ET) and the series' debut at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec.
Both drivers are out to post top finishes and protect slim leads at the 2.708-mile, 15-turn Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Montreal's famed Ile Notre Dame, which marks Round 11 of 14 for the Daytona Prototypes and the penultimate event for GT. As both seasons wind down, Pruett and Werner must be cognizant of where their closest competitors are and that points are now at a premium.
Pruett knows what it takes to win championships, as he shared the 2004 crown with Max Papis in the 12-race season. Winning four times that season, both drivers managed only a 10-point advantage over Wayne Taylor in the standings. This season, Pruett is in sole possession of first after co-piloting the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley to two victories, including January's season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona with Salvador Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya and the July 13 race at Iowa Speedway with current co-driver Memo Rojas. Pruett's lead over Max Angelelli stands at 11 (298-287), while Rojas is now fifth.
The 2005 co-champion Angelelli, meanwhile, has depended on consistent starts by multiple drivers, and taken the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley to seven podiums, including a third at the most recent race -- the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park. Angelelli is entered in the No. 10 with Jan Magnussen, who co-drove to the team's only victory of 2007 at Virginia International Raceway.
No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley co-drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty are tied for third in the series championship point standings, and their five victories have the pair only 13 points behind Pruett. Fogarty and Gurney are close to record-setting performances in multiple categories, as their five overall wins are one short of Terry Borcheller's all-time mark set in 2003. The duo has also started every race in 2007 on the front row and owns seven poles. Fogarty has started four straight races on the pole and five overall, which is two short of the single-season record.
Krohn Racing switched up its driver lineup at Barber, and all four drivers hope the results translate into the team's first victory of the season at Montreal. Colin Braun and Nic Jonsson drove the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley to a second-place finish at Barber after Braun dogged Gurney for much of the race. Papis and team owner Tracy Krohn will drive the No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley.
No. 23 Alex Job Racing Ruby Tuesday Porsche Crawford co-drivers Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister qualified second at Barber and were relegated to eighth in the race. The pair is looking for its second victory of 2007 after winning the U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Michael Shank Racing's No. 6 Playboy Lexus Riley (Ian James and John Pew) and No. 60 Michael Shanks Racing Lexus Riley (Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson) were also top-10 finishers at Barber, and are also looking for their first 2007 victories. James won the GT race in the Rolex Series' last Canadian event, in 2005 at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant.
While several drivers will compete at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the first time this weekend, others are making a return appearance to the track. Among those is Patrick Carpentier, the top Canadian driver entered for this week's Montreal 400k. A native of Montreal, Carpentier and co-driver Kris Szekeres in the No. 11 SAMAX/CITGO Pontiac Riley will look for the team's first overall victory of 2007 after a rash of mechanical woes in recent events. Carpentier, who co-drove to second in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, has competed at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve before, driving in the Champ Car World Series.
Canadian-based AIM Autosport returns to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve after fielding different cars in multiple series in the past. This weekend, the team -- which is almost exclusively Canadian -- brings the No. 61 Exchange Traded Gold/Barrick Gold Lexus Riley to the track with Toronto driver Mark Wilkins, a Circuit Gilles Villeneuve veteran. Burt and Brian Frisselle, two of only three team members from the U.S., return to the car as well.
Another Canadian, Michael Valiante, hopes he, co-driver Rob Finlay and the rest of the No. 19 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley team can return to podium after experiencing mechanical trouble at Barber. The duo qualified a season-best fifth, and Valiante nearly pulled off a winning pass on teammate Pruett at Iowa before settling for second.
Toronto native Darren Law -- who is approaching the century mark in Rolex Series starts -- and No. 58 Brumos Racing Red Bull/Brumos Porsche Riley co-driver David Donohue have finished in the top 10 in every race following the Rolex 24 At Daytona, with a solid fourth at Barber. Their teammates Hurley Haywood and JC France will drive the No. 59 Brumos Racing Kendall Porsche Riley.
Canadian Scott Maxwell and Florida native Gunnar Jeannette will make their first Daytona Prototype appearances of 2007 in the No. 55 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Racing Ford Multimatic, as the team last competed in 2005. Maxwell has spent much of his season on the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport (GS) circuit while Jeannette competed in the GT portion of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
No. 39 Cheever Racing Crown Royal Special Reserve Pontiac Fabcar co-driver Christian Fittipaldi may be the only driver on the track this weekend to have competed at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Canada. Fittipaldi, who has three Formula 1 starts and a Champ Car World Series start at the track, will co-drive the No. 39 with Harrison Brix.
Also entered for the Daytona Prototype race are the No. 3 Southard Motorsports Preformed Line Products/TrueChoice Motorsports Lexus/Riley and co-drivers Shane Lewis and Randy Ruhlman; No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Luggage Express/USXP.com BMW Riley and co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff (who won the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway); and the No. 91 Riley-Matthews Motorsports Pontiac Riley and co-drivers Jim Matthews and Marc Goossens.
Friday's race for GT competitors could be the deciding race in several drivers' and teams' championship hopes. The penultimate race sees the top eight drivers within 30 points of each other, with only the Sunchaser 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park left after this weekend. In addition, both races will also be run in conjunction with the Daytona Prototypes, after running separate events many times this season.
Werner is out to protect his turf and win the title as a Rolex Series rookie. Werner holds a slim six-point advantage (313-307) over Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, and together with No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports IPC/Marquis Jet Porsche GT3 co-driver Bryce Miller, owns eight podium finishes, with a victory at Virginia International Raceway. Werner and Miller did not compete together in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, dropping Miller to sixth in the standings, only 12 markers behind Werner.
Collins and Edwards have been as consistent as any other driver this season, recording 10 top-10 finishes in 11 starts, including nine straight to start the season in the No. 07 Banner Racing/Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R. After taking the championship series points lead from Werner after the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona, the pair failed to finish at Iowa, falling to fourth in the championship. Their victory in the Porsche 250 at Barber reasserted themselves as major title contenders, and together the pair leaped over co-drivers Andy Lally and RJ Valentine in the championship by one point.
Despite not being as consistent as Werner and Miller, Lally and Valentine have taken the No. 66 TRG CRG/Maxter Porsche GT3 co-driver to a season-high four race victories -- all in their last seven starts -- and have top-10 finishes in 10 of the 11 events. The current eight-point deficit is the closest the duo has been to Werner all season. Lally will also make his NASCAR Busch Series debut with TRG this weekend.
Montreal-born Sylvain Tremblay and Englishman Nick Ham are second to Lally and Valentine in GT victories this season with three, but a rash of bad luck has the pair seventh and eighth in the GT championship standings. The duo, driving the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazdaspeed Mazda RX-8, led the championship early in the season before falling with back-to-back finishes outside the top 10 -- including a DNF in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. A victory in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona put them back into contention, but a strong finish this weekend is a must to remain in the hunt.
Rounding out the top 10 in points are Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr. in the No. 06 Banner Racing/Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R. The duo has top-10 finishes in the last seven races - including a victory at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut - and head to Montreal with two straight top fives. Neither driver is mathematically eliminated from the championship battle (they sit 38 points behind Werner), but will need a combination of bad luck by fellow drivers and a top finish to stay eligible.
Every other top-10 team is a multi-car operation as well. The No. 85 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Shoes for Crews/Recaro Porsche GT3 has Dominik Farnbacher and Leh Keen listed as the drivers. Keen has recovered from a hard practice accident at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, in which he suffered a broken collarbone and bruised lung. Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi share the No. 69 SpeedSource FXDD Mazda RX-8, and have three straight top-10 finishes. Scott Tucker and Ed Zabinski are listed as the drivers in the No. 67 TRG 500 Fast Cash Porsche GT3.
Many other Canadians are ready to return to their home country this weekend. French Canadian Jean-Francois Dumoulin of Trois-Rivières, Quebec and Carlos de Quesada will return to the No. 22 Alegra Motorsports/Fiorano Racing Gatorade/TodayMD.com Porsche GT3 attempting to win their second race of the season. The pair combined to win the GT portion of the Rolex 24.
Canadian-based Doncaster Racing has Toronto residents Greg Wilkins and Dave Lacey in the No. 17 Doncaster Racing MineStar/Tim Hortons Porsche GT3, and each is looking for their first 2007 victory. Georgian Bay Motorsports, based in Ontario, will see Carp, Ontario driver Jamie Holtom and American Eric Curran shoot for their first GT victory of 2007 in the No. 03 Georgian Bay Motorsports SCADAPack Corvette.
Two other Corvettes -- both out of the Team Sahlen's stable -- are set for action this weekend. Team owner Joe Sahlen and Will Nonnamaker will share the No. 42 Team Sahlen HRPworld.com Corvette, while Wayne and Joe Nonnamaker will co-pilot the No. 43 Team Sahlen HRPworld.com Corvette.
Drew Staveley is listed as the lead driver in the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R, while another Pontiac team, Matt Connolly Motorsports, has Connolly and Hal Prewitt in the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R.
Other Porsche GT3s include the No. 27 O'Connell Racing General Environmental Management/Taleo Grill Porsche GT3 with drivers Kevin O'Connell and Mike Speakman and the No. 81 Synergy Racing EMC Mechanical/Gamewell Mechanical Porsche GT3 with Steve Johnson and Andrew Davis as the drivers. Borcheller and Tom Nastasi will drive the only Ford in the field, as they will pilot the No. 15 Blackforest Motorsports USG Sheetrock/Guardian Insulation Ford Mustang Cobra GT.
Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Fast Facts
What: Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve
Who: Daytona Prototype and GT class cars, featuring several top American and international sports car driving stars
Where: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve -- Montreal, Quebec, Canada
When: Friday, Aug. 3, 2007 -- 4:15 p.m.
TV: SPEED, Same Day, Friday, Aug. 3, 2007 -- 8 p.m.
Schedule of Events (All times local, Eastern Time):
Thursday, Aug. 2
12:30 PM - 1:20 PM Practice -- Rolex Series
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM Practice -- Rolex Series
Friday, Aug. 3
9:00 AM - 9:15 AM Qualifying -- Rolex Series GT
9:30 AM - 9:45 AM Qualifying -- Rolex Series Daytona Prototypes
10:50 AM - 11:20 AM Final Practice -- Rolex Series
3:40 PM Recon Laps -- Rolex Series
3:45 PM Driver Introductions -- Rolex Series
4:15 PM START -- Rolex Series Race (400k/92 laps/2 ½-hour time limit)
TIME CERTAIN SCHEDULE -- All sessions to start and finish as shown.
Live Timing & Scoring is available for all Rolex Series practices, qualifying sessions and races on the official Grand-Am website -- www.grand-am.com. A live audio webcast in English and Spanish is available at www.grand-am.com.